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Official Report Reveals Huge Gap Between Rich, Poor

Annual Meitzav reports indicate gains in Math and Sciences, losses in Hebrew language; huge socioeconomic gaps revealed
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 11/3/2013, 3:20 PM

Students taking exams (illustrative)
Students taking exams (illustrative)
Flash90

The results of this year's Meitzav evaluations have been released today (Sunday), revealing an upswing in Math and Sciences performance, a downswing in Hebrew language - and a gaping socioeconomic divide between the nation's poorest and wealthiest students. 

The Meitzav evaluations are a set of surveys, examinations and polls, which evaluate the success rate of elementary and middle-school students across Israel in specific subjects: Mathematics, the Sciences, Hebrew, English, and Arabic. The information provides important pedagogical data to school principals and government officials alike, guiding both administrations to evaluate the next course of action for individual schools or for the entire educational system as a whole. Meitzav is conducted by the National Authority for Measurement and Evaluation in Education, an independent body affiliated with the Ministry of Education. 

This year's results indicate that while students have improved overall in Mathematics, Science, and Technology - which are all particularly important in an economic climate which is heavily based in the hi-tech industry - there continue to be declines in students' grasp of languages. Most importantly, the tests continue to attest to a severe socioeconomic gap between Israel's wealthiest and poorest students. 

As Walla reports, the data concludes that there is now a total of an 110-point gap between the cumulative scores of Israel's most affluent elementary school students and its most poverty-stricken students. Not only does the gap indicate that poorer students struggle to acquire knowledge in school in general, but also that improvement is stalled; for example, this year's increase in 8th-grade mathematics performance is confined only to Hebrew-speakers from the middle- or upper-classes.

The learning gaps also have social ramifications. Statistics now indicate that up to 12% of students in the upper elementary school grades have been involved in acts of violence on school grounds in the past year, and 26% have reported that they were the victims of hurtful insults or remarks. Thankfully, both numbers decline sharply until the end of high school. 

This is the last year that the Meitzav tests will be conducted, in a move that has already faced sharp criticism from members of the Ministry of Education. The tests have been deemed outdated in legislation carried out last year. Some Knesset MKs have already begun to question the logic behind canceling the tests, in light of this year's dramatic results. 

Mk Shlomo Ohayon, of Likud Beitenu, stated today that "students from peripheral populations should be allotted a higher budget from the Education Ministry" to reduce the discrepancies in education, which have been getting steadily worse over the past decade. Ohayon deemed the decision to cancel the evaluations a "mistake," in sentiments matching those of other ministers, including opposition leader Shelly Yechimovich.

"Education gaps are a strategic threat to Israel, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, and Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron must understand that [. . .] closing the gap is an essential duty of the State. Today's results are not random results, but the culmination of the State's educational policy."